Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Be Careful and Watch Your Back

In my short life I have had a lot of experience with having to be careful where I go and who I associate with. When I was in Kansas City, MO in the 1980's the Crips and Bloods gangs made it hard to be a kid and go to certain places. In Houston, TX when I visited the 5th Ward Houston had to be carefeul of its bad reputation. When I lived in the Bay Area, CA there were parts of Oakland and San Fransisco where I had to keep both eyes open. In New York I never went to the South Bronx late at night. In Japan as a kid I had to be careful of getting lost in a place where I was not fluent in the language. In Ethiopia I had to be careful of going out at night since there was a curfew and one never knows what is around the next corner. Here in Israel there is the threat of Arab terrorists and the like who have recently been trying to abduct soldiers and civilians.

Yet, sometimes you have to simply be careful of who you associate with as well as who you seek advice from. Going back to my high school years in a suburb of Kansas City called Raytown I began to realize something was wrong with my associations when I saw the trouble they often dragged me into. Once I started hanging out with someone who seemed okay. Yet, one night he drank to much and mouthed off to the wrong people. We almost got into a fight with someone and we were kicked out of a restaurant. Another time I was going out with a girl who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, but she did not believe in God anymore. I had initially vowed that I would not get to close to her, but because I was lonely at the time I went against my own understanding. I ended up regretting wasting my time in the situation, yet I did not initially see where the problem was.

It took several similar situations with other people to realize that I was not raised to be who I was pretended to be, and I definitely didn't need to be around people who had so much drama in their own lives. As it says in the book of Tehillim (Psalms) 1:1.

אשרי האיש אשר לא הלך בעדת רשעים
ובדרך חטאים לא עמד ובמושב לצים לא ישב
Happy/pleasant is the man who does not walk in the counsel/witness of the evil/unrighteous and in the path of the sinners he does not stand and in the dwellings of the scoffers/frivolous he does not sit.

When I was young, I didn't think much of this kind of advice. Old people talked like this all the time and some of them quoted such things to me from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), but their were words were inconvenient truths for me at the time. That is until I saw certain people I associated with fall and some of them fell hard.

I never thought much of the affect of their failures on me, until I walked into the wrong place at the wrong time, and I almost didn't walk out. Until I saw that I was arguing with people who I had no business arguing with. Until I saw myself consuming concepts that were shallow, and providing me with no substance. Until I saw myself seeking advice from people who by their own lives were not qualified to give advice. Until one day I saw that just because I didn't live like some people, sometimes I was being defined by my associations with them. I also saw myself becoming like them until I recognized where I had fallen short.

Yet, it all came together when I read Mishle (Proverbs) 1:4-7.

לתת לפתאים ערמה לנער דעת וזמה
ישמע חכם ויוסף לקח ונבון תחבלות יקנה
להבין משל ומליצה דיברי חבמים וחידתם
יראת ה ראשית דעת חכמה ומוסר אוילים בזו
To give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth. The wise man will hear and he will gather to take; and understanding counsel he will acquire. To understand examples/proverbs and a figure/interpretation; the words of the wise one/sages and their difficult sentences/sayings. Fear/Reverence of God is the beginning of knowledge; wisdom and discipline the fools despise.

According to the Jewish sage Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (1093-1167) תחבלות can mean wise counsel and thought. In the Metzudath David, Rabbenu Yonah understands תחבלות as ideas requiring profound thought, and Isaiah da Trani derives תחבלות from the Hebrew word חבל (a rope). It is his understanding that like a rope can be used to pull something closer, these are the methods by which to draw wisdom to oneself. The baseline for this is the Biblical precepts i.e. the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). With this, one always know where to default for determining if a situation or a person is providing correct information or advice.

Lastly, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (Rashi) explains of verse 7 that before one's wisdom one should reverence/fear God. This is because those who don't fear God have the ability to misuse or never fully comprehend true wisdom.

I really could have used this when in 1999 while I was hanging out at UC Berkley and I accidentally walked into a situation similar to the one on this video.

Jamie Kennedy Experiment: Bliss Cult

Similar to the guy at the end of this video, I left that place saying thank God I left before something weird happened. Unlike those in this video I left before things got any weirder.

The above can be applied to all areas of life such as business, dating, and friendships. Sometimes we have to keep our eyes wide open in terms of who and what we let be a part of our lives or we may share in the problems that come from wrong associations.‎


kfoster_1723 said...

Hello Ehav,

Greetings from Texas.

A most wise post. I ran across your blog while researching the Torah and was most interested in some of your thoughts and comments on a book called 'Fossilized Customs' on I then searched your name 'Ehav Eliyahu Ever' and found your blog. I am glad I did, as you seem to have followed a path that I am just now undertaking. It is good to see that there are others that have taken it upon themselves to seek the truth, wherever it may lead. I will be a frequent visitor to your blog from hereon out. Thank you for taking the time to write of your experiences.

Kirby Foster

Ehav Ever said...

Thanks Kirby,

I pray that your path will continue on the way that God would have you go. Definately keep checking the blog. I am trying to find things that are really interesting.

Tr8erGirl said...

Great post! I always thought that being able to pick out wrong associations would get easier as I get older - but its not! Its not easier at all, and the stakes are higher!

Ehav Ever said...

Hey Tr8ergirl,

I think one of the keys is clinging to the elders who have seen the ways of the world. I was raised mainly around older people, so I have always clung to how they saw the world and I have sought their advice. I think the more one studies texts like the Tanakh, especially Tehillim (Psalms), Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes), and Mishle (Proverbs) one finds situations that help in analyzing our path.